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5 Keys for Miami Dolphins vs Arizona Cardinals

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5 Keys for the Miami Dolphins vs Arizona Cardinals


The Miami Dolphins will travel to Phoenix to take on the Arizona Cardinals this week. The 'Phins had multiple opportunities to turn a close game into a W for them last week vs the New York Jets, while the Cards continue their impressive (and somewhat surprising) great start as they are 3-0. In this slideshow article we will take a look at 5 keys in this game.

Coming into 2012 I felt that head coach Ken Whisenhunt required a big season to keep his job. He had a ton of success early in his Cardinals tenure (27-21 with a 4-2 playoff record first 3 seasons) but the past 2 seasons have seen the Cards regress to 13-18. 40-40 overall, seemingly his best days behind him. The 2012 Cards 3-0 start has him comfortably away from the hot-seat (if one existed, this was just my speculation that he needed a big 2012).

The defense has played well. How about a dozen sacks already. Only the Chicago Bears have more in the entire NFL.In stark contrast the 'Phins have a mere 3 sacks (only Jacksonville Jaguars are worse).

Surely thee key match-up will be Larry Fitzgerald vs the Dolphins cornerbacks. Fitz was off to a slow start in 2012, but in his last game vs the Philadelphia Eagles and Nnamdi Asomugha he romped for a massive day. Could be problematic for the 'Phins secondary is Fitz is back to being Fitz. He does not have a great history with quarterback Kevin Kolb, but last week they were clicking.

This slideshow article will look at these, plus other keys for YOUR MIAMI DOLPHINS this weekend.

Thank you for your read! Pass it on... for all of my articles on the Miami Dolphins Follow me on twitter @craigballard77 and the new sports show @RantingBenCraig

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5 Keys for Miami Dolphins vs Arizona Cardinals

Jennifer Stewart-US PRESSWIRE

Larry Fitzgerald vs Sean Smith (and perhaps some Richard Marshall too)

The best player on the field may well be Larry Fitzgerald (especially if Reggie Bush is a no-go with his injured left knee). The Cardinals best option to make big plays is the 9 year veteran. 2012 was off to a slow start with just 5 catches for a mere 67 yards to for the first 2 games, but last week vs Nnamdi Asomugha and the Philadelphia Eagles Fitz went off for 9 catches - 114 yards - and his first TD of the season.

For 'Phins phans this is a guy who could cause sleepless nights leading up to game-day. We will likely see 6'3" Sean Smith draw the coverage assignment, but depending on execution and formations we may see a sprinkle of Richard Marshall on Fitzgerald too. Safeties Chris Clemons and Reshad Jones will need to provide help on just about every play vs Fitzgerald.

On the season Fitzgerald has been targeted 24 times, just 14 of those passes were complete, but remember in his most recent game he and QB Kolb were in definite rhythm. Kolb threw 253 passes in 2011, only 2 of those were TDs for Fitzgerald. That is way less scoring than Fitz usually does, but these 2 connected for an outburst vs a very good Eagles defense. Kolb is off to a 4 TD vs 0 INT start to 2012. Concerning for Miami.

Fitzgerald is the home run hitter for this passing game. The 2012 Cardinals have 7 pass plays that went for more than 20 yards. Fitz has authored 4 of those (3 others have 1). Fitz is averaging just 2 yards after each catch so the Dolphins should have a chance to drop him right away after a catch, but we have seen this secondary miss tackles in 2012.

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5 Keys for the Miami Dolphins vs Arizona Cardinals


Stopping Andre Roberts from picking up big 1st downs

Fitzgerald is not the only WR to watch this week. Andre Roberts is a guy who has been targeted just 16 times in 2012, 9 of those were complete. The thing is 8 of his 9 catches have resulted in Cardinals 1st downs.

Miami has been very good on defense allowing just 30% of 3rd downs to be converted against them (only 5 teams are better) but where Roberts is playing well is actually on 2nd down so I am sure Kevin Coyle will have that as part of his game-plan/strategy.

Roberts is also a guy who is seeing his scoring increase in 2012. He had 2 TDs in his rookie campaign of 2010. 2 more in 2011. He already has 2 (and counting) in 2012. Roberts is also a guy that will run the end-around for the Cardinals as a change-up too.

8 of his 9 catches have come at University of Phoenix Stadium so we see Roberts thrives on home cooking. He has been particularly effective during the rare times that the Cardinals trail in the game. So far when the game situation has called for a pass we have seen teams loading up on Fitzgerald to take him away as an option. Roberts is making hay with that as he is taking advantage of the single coverage that allows for him.

Fitzgerald is priority numeor uno, but Roberts is quietly threatening a nice 2012 as the #2 WR in the desert.

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5 Keys for Miami Dolphins vs Arizona Cardinals

Thomas J. Russo-US PRESSWIRE

Replacement refs

We know the NFL fan-bases are going bananas over replacement refs. The Dolphins and Cardinals have each been flagged 21 times in 2012. For Miami their main culprit is defensive pass-interference so we will look for the Cards to throw long-balls to Fitzgerald, also perhaps to a guy like Early Doucet.

For Arizona their main penalty has been offensive holding (with honorable mention to false starts). This could loom large in this game as the Dolphins pass-rush has not been producing sacks, but they have been threatening to drop the QB on several plays. In particular the front-4 defensive-line could really make the Cardinals offensive-line jumpy and uneasy. Keeping Kolb upright has to be a priority for Arizona. Their back-up is likely going to be Ryan Lindley, and he has as many NFL passes as you or I have (which is to say, zero!)

Both teams have been excellent at staying disciplined before the snap when on defense. Only 1 defensive off-side between them. Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill has been good with snap counts and voice inflections to try to keep defenses off-balance at the snap, but the 2012 Cardinals are (so far) tough to fool (same with Dolphins).

Speaking of discipline, neither team has yet to be penalized for a personal foul. Both teams (so far in 2012) are allowing cooler heads to prevail, and not making personal foul mistakes which are normally very costly. for all of my articles on the Miami Dolphins

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5 Keys for the Miami Dolphins vs Arizona Cardinals


Miami Dolphins pass-rush vs Kevin Kolb

The 2012 Cardinals have yielded just 5 sacks, while the 'Phins have registered just a putrid 3 sacks, but I see reason for optimism this week. Firstly we see 3 of those 5 sacks came vs a Eagles front-7 that is really good, well the Dolphins front-7 is really good too. It is true that the stats are underwhelming (Randy Starks 2 sacks, Olivier Vernon and Jared Odrick 0.5 sacks each) but in this game of inches the 'Phins have been this close to several other sacks. At some point (soon) we are going to see the likes of Cameron Wake start to drop QBs more frequently than what we have seen so far.

The front-7 is outstanding vs the run so I think we will see several 2nd-and long and 3rd-and-long scenarios for the Cards. These are opportunities for the Dolphins to pin their ears back and attack the pocket Kolb is trying to operate in.

The Cards offensive line is very veteran, but they do start a rookie at right tackle in Bobby Massie. We will watch that spot closely. Veteran tight end Todd Heap will likely be involved in running routes rather than helping the o-line pass-protect as the 'Phins often struggle with TEs over the middle.

We are likely to see a lot of rookie RB Ryan Williams in this game for Arizona. Williams (like most rookies) can struggle at times as a pass protector. A lot of things add up to Miami doing better than the 1 sack per game they are currently averaging

Follow me on twitter @craigballard77 and the new sports show @RantingBenCraig

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5 Keys for the Miami Dolphins vs the Arizona Cardinals


What team will get production from their running backs?

The Dolphins had Reggie Bush cooking in the game vs the Oakland Raiders, and the first half vs the New York Jets. A ridiculous play call had him exposed to injury at the end of the first half, and he actually did get injured on the play. Luckily Bush did avoid structural damage, but we do not know if he will play this weekend.

That leaves 2nd year man Daniel Thomas and rookie Lamar Miller to carry the load. I love Miller, but his struggles as a pass-protector have been on display (like most rookies, he has work to do in this area). The Cards have an impressive 12 sacks in 2012 (#2 in NFL) so I think that Thomas gets the call more often than Miller does. It is Miller who is the home-run threat, but the concern is that his poor blocking is exposing the franchise (Ryan Tannehill) to injury

Beanie Wells has a toe issue and may miss this game (or at least be limited). The 'Phins run-D is awesome so I don't think Wells is in a hurry to play this weekend. That leaves rookie Ryan Williams who was a 2011 2nd round pick, but his 2011 was ended quickly with injury. It is Williams who is the home-run threat, but this Dolphins rush-D has not yielded a 100-yard rusher in 17 games (and likely counting). Wells has the sort of skill-set that the Dolphins usually manhandle (Paul Soliai and Randy Starks in the middle are awesome)

Thank you for your read! Pass it on... for all of my articles on the Miami Dolphins Follow me on twitter @craigballard77 and the new sports show @RantingBenCraig